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All the Riffs You Need… SLOWER & HARDER FEST 2023

Charles Nickles

Charles Nickles covers SLOWER & HARDER FEST 2023 for CVLT Nation

Sometimes the stars align and you find yourself unemployed with some Delta credits from the baby days of the pandemic, a glaring disregard for your credit score, and some random algorithmic tip that the shit is going DOWN in the ATL with Weedeater and Bongripper and Portrayal of Guilt and so many more who’ve never crossed your lips and you think “shit, pretty soon it might be too late to say ‘fuck it’,” so off you go and there you are and there’s so much to tell you about fried chicken and whale sharks and shower beer and confrontations at the Circle K and just how fuckin rad Olga is for putting on this perfect fucking party but I really should get to the snaps and bands before I turn into a pumpkin.

SLOWER & HARDER FEST 2023

Dear Woodland Creatures

Deep, damaged experimental gothic/philosophic Americana that echoes a little bit Earth, a little bit Murder Ballads (think Mick Harris and the horrors before), and a good bit gloom king Wasluck loosed from his basement and raised in the soil which really should NOT fuckin work in the brutal, broad daylight but, when you close your eyes and forget how to breathe, really does offer a most righteous communion.

Leafblower

I came into this thinking Leafblower was gonna be some kinda goofy pothead, churn-and-burn band that just riffed kind of loud and lazy in the high sun but goddamn was I wrong. I mean, sure, they’re some real down home chug-a-lug motherfuckers and I’m sure they (like 99.98% of the rest of the folks here) enjoy getting at least a little HIGHlarious but damn if they didn’t come correct with the scorched rock and roll crushers and a frontdude exponentially more adamant and animated and just like down in the SHIT than you’d expect from a band my buddy Sam assumed MUST be from New Jersey.

Sustenance 

Another band I only knew from wax (if you’ll allow me the anachronism) and had fully pegged for a muscle-bound celebration of arty mooks one drop d away from rehab which I kinda felt oddly cool with given the dynamic and inclusionary nature of this fest but NOPE! This was some serious fuck-the-binary deathcore cum crust savagery punctuated by Wu-Tang skits which would be just as at home in the grandeur of C-Squat as the fisted gallows of Knotfest.

Clot

This is legit one of the only bands I’m kiiinda bummed to be seeing midday because there is SOOOOOOOO much about their biker-meth, post-death polemic grind that demands an audience in the shadows but fuck me if they don’t do the new mindful violence all kinds of wreckless right despite (or perhaps, in parts, inspired in contempt for) the foul hubris of the light. 

I kinda want to call Clot my favorite new band but I fear that if I’ve really arrived at a place in my life where the mindful violence these punk terrorists frothingly avow becomes the critical care of my existential de rigueur, things may well have taken a turn.

Tsuris

Okay, I have no idea why the fuck my search engine just lead me to the Wiki article on “Advocacy of Suicide” when trying to find some relevant intel on this band but sure, why not? Here’s Tsuris. Another act that fiends for the moldy foulness of the underground. Blackened nasties with lots of guitars who clearly hate the fuck out of some God which, as you know, is total rock and roll. 

Sunrot

It went from Springsteen to Skid Row to Sunrot. Sure, there were some other bands that popped up in and around New Jersey since the Boss first stuck it to Rosie’s dad and Dave “The Snake” Sabo shredded WAILS for Ricky but who gives a shit? This is Sunrot’s hour and goddamn right they’re gonna make the most of their opportunity to share the perilous pleasures of living and being on the cusp of the post…well, everything age with blood and shrieks and thuds and riffs and noise and scorching queer JOY! as radical action with the fine young folks of The ATL and they fuckin love it and Sunrot loves them and Sunrot loves YOU even if their turgid, dirging sludge worship would give the casual indication that y’all can get royally fucked.

Bonus points for being the only band of the weekend to bleed on stage.

Double Bonus points for being the one weird, loud band the algorithm feels I need to know on a regular because without Sunrot I would have never known about this lovely little skullcrush a thousand miles from home.

Deadlink

I’m not gonna pretend to know what this band is about but they are fuckin balls deep in the grist mill that turned Man Is the Bastard into a name you could trust on a bad high with some would-be laureates on the chemical sunrise so, like, you know…HEEEAAAAVVVYYYY and noisy and gruelly and is that, like, someone’s dad on keys? This band has keys? Jeeeesus. I just assumed everything in this band that wasn’t a drum beat or a cutthroat was a bass string. The more you know, I s’pose…

Drifter

If it weren’t for The Fucking Champs I would never have known that Drifter were a party band so thanks for your wisdom, Kwame. And though Drifter aren’t rocking the same cockeyed Van Halen maximalism as those bygone sex kittens, they are fully invested in melting your face with the postmetal riffage and spacerock madness which, all things considered, is much more Pelican-y but for all the triumphant chatter that used to follow those dudes around I never once felt like they’d set out to RAWK anybody’s balls off. Drifter, however? They are fuckin here for it. Rolled up, ripped, and ready to rage.

Dorthia Cottrell

There’s something my brain can’t acknowledge here. I don’t know if it’s magic or medicine or sunstroke or hunger or all or what but as soon as Dorthia Cottrell (accompanied by the inimitable shredder, Leanne Martz, and the noise/string curio, JK) starts into her set of haunted, transcendental rust my self just goes kinda foggy, kinda genteel, kinda loose in the bones and ready to wake up in the never again and I worry this might be an issue as the death speaks truer and truer with every whisper and strum and echo and did I hear “Sparrow”? The sun is setting. The darkness calling. The hope of tomorrow imbued with the shadows passing between hell and me, the trembling sands and the fuckin infinity JESUS this is some good shit but I think I need to go hide a minute before I lose my sense completely. 

Fister

I vaguely remember hearing a split Fister did with Primitive Man like 10 years ago and thinking “No.” Just “No.” And I can’t recall if that “No” was directed towards Fister’s particularly nasty brand of patience-breaking contempt or an echo of my experience seeing Primitive Man in a small room in Texas shortly after getting in a car crash with my dad.

And I still don’t, really and, really, it doesn’t matter because if you’re here for Fister, Fister is here for you with their hot puss river of misery etudes played at teeth-crushing volume and a pace whose cruelty should only be known by the skinning of the Christ and I know that I might be a little delirious from all those hours in the sun chomping trail mix and beer finally finding me in utter darkness but I’m pretty sure i just heard them turn an absolute fucking horrorshow out of “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

So I guess, now, I say “Yes.”

Portrayal of Guilt

Holy shit, people love Portrayal of Guilt. I mean, I kinda knew that much like I kinda knew how people loved the Strokes but then I saw The Strokes at a fest in the tweens and immediately felt concerned for my safety and the future of humanity what with the flags and TOTAL white slum worship which I’m pretty sure is precisely the piss-swirled cauldron of social mores from which Portrayal of Guilt grew their new grind deconstructionist theory of pain as punk/punk as pain let’s just fuck the whole thing forever like Steve Austin did back in his rabid 90s run.

But it’s still kinda surprising.

And the electric angst swirling around this young, starless night as the band rips roaring with its artfuck buzzsaw is almost terrifyingly palpable and though I am reasonably confident I won’t survive three songs, let alone fucking one the crowd is actually quite considerate with their violence for which I will be eternally grateful because I just can’t fuck with that “hardcore” nonsense at this hour.

Bongripper

I really don’t know how I’ve never seen or even really listened to Bongripper before this weekend but it doesn’t take that long for me to realize that ignorance has got me all kinda fucked up because this is THEEEEE most bombastic riffage I have ever heard outside an El Camino suicide pact.

I mean, godDAMN! this is some good, good heavy like just lay down and light my balls on fire / crush my soul / for a good time call… tectonic fuckitall I really thought I had found in alleys and abysses before but nah, dude. I don’t know shit from shinola and even if I did Bongripper would still kick my belated little pecker in because these motherfuckers are coming cruel and clean with the neutron bombastic and the devil in pocket and Olga front and center with a bottle of champers losing her fuckin mind with her cabal of like-minded pleasure killers so yeah, dude. 

Bongripper is the real deal doom king righteousness of record.

Full.

Fuckin.

Stop.

Weedeater

I don’t think there’s anyone as surprised as Dixie to wake up every morning to find themselves alive and yet here he is all these years later cussin’ and scratchin’ and drinkin’ and smokin’ and howlin’ and riffin’ and huffin’ and haulin’ and lovin’ and goofin’ and fuckin’ and doin’ whatever the hell goddamn else a Dixie’s gotta do to keep a band like Weedeater from turning up a dead and dusty humdrum.

And I think that’s pretty cool.

But it’s also kind of terrifying. Or, rather, it welcomes a particular brand of terror worship whose full head of teeth belies a cat-strung dedication to white drugs and other ravenous, synthetic glories that really get those knuckles pumpin’, boots stompin’ and death comin’ fast and welcome down the gutter.

Once you accept the various shakes and relative assurance of bodily harm, however, Weedeater is a quick lesson in bad-time party math where if you wanna get fucked up you gotta get fucked up and if you’re fucked you’re a friend of mine. I mean, why else would Weedeater open a set in the dark outs of nowhere bathed only in green light with the fuckin Golden Girls theme song before kicking into the pricks with the rasping, groove, and horror in bloom if not to scream out “WIIIIIZZAAAARDDDD FIIIIIGGGHHHTTT!!!!!” and know what it is to be heard.

Written By

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation.

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